December 22nd, 2010
08:00 AM ET

Searching for sex and religion in new Google database

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

The massive Google database of some 500 billion words culled from books published between 1500 and 2008, and featured in an article published today in Science, is a treasure trove for anyone interested in how languages change. But it can also provide quantitative insights into the history of culture, via what the authors of the study are calling “culturomics.”

In my first effort at playing around with the new database, which goes by the clunky name of “Books Ngram Viewer,” I tried to see what I might be able to learn about religion. Because my scholarly focus is on religion in the United States, I focused on books published in “American English” between 1776 and today.


- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Islam • Jesus • Judaism • Opinion • United States

Life in St. Nick's hometown
December 22nd, 2010
07:59 AM ET

Turkish town cashes in on Saint Nick legacy

By Ivan Watson, CNN

The hometown of the man who inspired the legend of Santa Claus is a long way from the snow and arctic lights of the North Pole.

The land Saint Nicholas is originally from rarely sees snowflakes - it is a village of palm trees and orange groves on the Mediterranean Sea in what is modern-day Turkey. Nicholas, patron saint of sailors and children, lived and died there nearly 18 centuries ago.

The legend of the 4th century bishop who gave gifts to the poor has spread since the earliest days of Christianity.
Eventually, Saint Nicholas evolved from the bald and bearded man depicted in Orthodox icons - dressed in long robes and clutching a bible - to the more rotund and secular character of jolly old Saint Nick.

Read the full story here about the real St. Nick and how his home town is cashing in.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Asia • Belief • Bishops • Catholic Church • Christianity • Christmas • Holidays

Hey Jude needs an act of love
December 22nd, 2010
07:00 AM ET

Hey Jude needs an act of love

Singer Matthew West, whose "The Story of Your Life" album was compiled from letters written by his fans, will close the year by performing a benefit concert for St. Jude's hospital.

The concert is in memory of Dax Locke, who inspired a town to decorate for Christmas two months early, fearing he would not live until December. He did, but 2-year-old Dax died from acute myeloid leukemia five days after Christmas.

West wrote the songs for "Story" from 10,000 letters sent in by people who heard about his project, and he wrote a tune inspired by Dax's story after receiving three e-mails about him (but didn't include the song on the album).

The Dax-inspired song, "One Last Christmas," is now a video on his West's website, where for a donation to St. Jude's, you can download it.

West has also posted the video to YouTube where it has received more than 550,000 views. Be warned, watch the video with a few tissues.

The benefit concert will be held in Dax's hometown - Washington, Illinois - on December 30. West and the Locke family are trying to raise $1.6 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where Dax was treated.

- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Charity • Christianity • Christmas • Culture & Science • Music

“Christian famous” pastor quits his church, moves to Asia
December 22nd, 2010
06:00 AM ET

“Christian famous” pastor quits his church, moves to Asia

By, Eric Marrapodi, CNN

He pastored a 4,000-member church in California. He was a sought-after speaker at major conferences, wrote two best-sellers and launched a DVD teaching series.

Then he abruptly resigned and left the country.

But in Francis Chan’s unexpected journey there apparently is no hidden scandal, no money trail, and no ‘other’ woman.

“I just want to disappear for a while,” he said in late September as he prepared to leave Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California for an undisclosed location in Asia.


- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Asia • Belief • Books • California • Christianity • India • Pastors • United States

About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.